The birds parted on either side, as if Lola were somehow unpalatable to them. They squawked and flapped but otherwise allowed her boots to crunch over the hard-packed snow of the frozen lake.

Lola did her best to remain nonchalant, hands in pockets. The bitter lake wind tore at her unbottoned jacket, but she dared not make the move to bundle up. The geese honked at her, outraged, but in a small miracle not one bit of down escaped from them to touch or even approach her.

The sullen, rotting tower of the Baikash refugees with its tattered banners and faded signs, slowly began to sink below the treeline. As Lola continued her trek, some of the geese keeping pace while others fell back to look for stragglers.

As Joyce had said, and as the occasional bleached bones on the ice attested, the birds’ feathers were highly toxic and being near enough to be nipped could impart a fatal dose of ionizing radiation in moments.

It was a long way, an awful long way, to the orange dot on the far shore.

Inspired by this.

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